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NFL Sunday Playbook: It's resolution time for playoff spots, positioning

The National Football League tried for maximum drama in its Week 17 schedule, making all 16 games on the schedule divisional matchups. It partially succeeded.

Eleven  games will impact the playoffs, either determining who makes it or what the seeding will be. No climactic battles, though. Only in the NFC South clash between Carolina and Atlanta do both sides have a playoff position riding on the outcome.

Nine of the 12 playoff teams have been determined. Only the two wild-card teams in the AFC and one in the NFC are yet to be decided. Buffalo, Baltimore, Tennessee and the Los Angeles Chargers are alive in the AFC. It's Atlanta and Seattle vying for the final place the NFC postseason lineup. Some shuffling of the seeding among the nine qualifiers is possible, though.

A capsule look at the final regular season games of the 2017 season:

Game of the day

Panthers (11-4) at Falcons (9-6)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Falcons (-4).
The scoop: Carolina can win the NFC South with a victory and a New Orleans loss at Tampa Bay. Otherwise, the Panthers will be the No. 5 seed as the first NFC Wild Card.  Carolina won the first meeting, 20-17, on Nov. 5 ... Atlanta will earn a wild-card berth with a win or a loss by Seattle.
Outlook: Falcons were coming on until they laid an egg in huge game at New Orleans last week. Atlanta has more at stake than the Panthers, who are already in the playoffs and are just playing for positioning, which never has been a strong motivator. Falcons, 24-23.

Still in the hunt

Bills (8-7) at Dolphins (6-9)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Bills (-2 1/2).
The scoop: This is the game of the day as far as Western New York fans are concerned. The Bills must repeat their 24-16 victory over the Dolphins two weeks ago at New Era Field to have any chance at their first postseason game since the '99 season. They also need help in a loss by the Ravens or a loss or tie by the Chargers and a loss or tie by the Titans. Should the Bills tie, they would get in if both the Chargers and Titans lose.
Outlook: Chance to spoil things for the Bills should be all the motivation the Fish need. Dolphins, 23-20.

Raiders (6-9) at Chargers (8-7)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Chargers (-8).
The scoop: Just winning won't do it for the Chargers, either. They also would need a loss or tie by both the Bills and Titans or also a loss by the Titans and a win by the Ravens. If they tie, they make it if the Titans lose or the Bills lose or tie. ... Chargers edged the Raiders, 17-16, in their first meeting on Oct. 15 on Nick Novak's 32-yard field goal on the last play of the game.
Outlook: Raiders' Derek Carr has been handing away games all season. How about one more? Chargers, 24-21.

Jaguars (10-5) at Titans (8-7)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Titans (-3 1/2).
The scoop: A win puts Tennessee in the playoffs. Otherwise, they can also get in if both the Bills and Chargers lose. ... Titans routed the AFC South division champion Jaguars, 37-16, on Sept.17, taking a 23-0 lead into the fourth quarter. Tennessee rolled up 390 yards against league's No. 3 defense.
Outlook: Locked in as No. 3 seed in AFC, Jaguars will go through the motions unless Tom Coughlin kicks some butt. Titans, 30-24.

Bengals (6-9) at Ravens (9-6)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Ravens (-10).
The scoop: Baltimore gets in with a win or a loss by either the Bills or Titans. ... Ravens shut out Bengals in season opener, 20-0, thanks to five Cincy turnovers. ... Andy Dalton of Bengals has passed for 3,000 yards for each of his first seven seasons in NFL, but he's also thrown 12 INTS in 2017.
Outlook: Bengals will put up a fight for a while and fold in the end of what should be coach Marvin Lewis' final game. Ravens, 17-7.

Cardinals (7-8) at Seahawks (9-6)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Seahawks (-10).
The scoop: It will be Seattle or Atlanta in the last NFC wild-card spot. Seahawks need a win and an Atlanta loss to make it. ... After humiliation at home the week before the Seahawks went to Dallas and won last week. Cardinals shut out Giants at home after going three games with just one TD. ... Seahawks took first meeting, 22-16, in Glendale with Russell Wilson passing to Jimmy Graham for two TDs.
Outlook: Kicking of Phil Dawson keeps Cards in it for a while. Seattle, 20-16.

Jockeying for position

Bears (5-10) at Vikings (12-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Vikings (-11 1/2).
The scoop: Vikings own NFC North title but can clinch first-round bye with a win or a loss by Panthers or losses by either Saints or Rams. ... Vikings won first meeting, 20-17, on Oct. 9.
Outlook: John Fox deserves to be back for keeping Bears competitive most weeks. Vikings, 20-12.

Jets (5-10) at Patriots (12-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Patriots (-16 1/2).
The scoop: A heavy favorite, New England will clinch home-field throughout AFC playoffs with a win or if Steelers lose. Jesse James' no-TD call was that crucial.
Outlook: Jets would have some chance with Josh McCown at QB, but he's on IR and Steve Petty will start. Patriots, 30-17.

Browns (0-15) at Steelers (12-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Steelers (-10 1/2).
The scoop: Cleveland trying not to join 2008 Lions as only 0-16 team in NFL history, but Browns have lost last five to Steelers, including 21-18 game in Cleveland in season opener.
Outlook: Pittsburgh can earn home-field throughout playoffs with a win and Patriots' loss. Fat chance. Steelers, 23-10.

49ers (5-10) at Rams (11-4)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: 49ers (-3).
The scoop: Rams edged Niners, 41-39, in first meeting on Sept. 21, but San Francisco has won three of last four against West Coast rival. ... Jimmy Garoppolo is 4-0 as starter for 49ers. ... Rams can't improve playoff position but their outcome effects Panthers and Vikings.
Outlook: Niners favored on road? Shows how important Garoppolo and Rams' motivation are. Niners, 21-16.

Saints (11-4) at Buccaneers (4-11)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Saints (-7).
The scoop: A win clinches NFC South for New Orleans. A loss by Panthers will do it, too. Saints won first meeting, 30-10, in New Orleans. Saints rookie Alvin Kamara had 152 scrimmage yards in that one.
Outlook: Saints almost play it too casually. New Orleans, 24-21.

Nothing at stake

Cowboys (8-7) at Eagles (13-2)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Eagles (- 2 1/2).
The scoop: Nothing at stake for Eagles except hatred of Cowboys. Philadelphia has NFC East and home field in NFC playoffs clinched. Eagles embarrassed Cowboys, 37-9, in Arlington last month.
Outlook: Eagles hope Nick Foles stays healthy otherwise its former Indiana Hoosier Nate Sudfeld who starts for Philly in playoffs. Cowboys earn more enmity in City of Brotherly Love, 30-23.

Chiefs (9-6) at Broncos (5-10)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Broncos (-3 1/2).
The scoop: As AFC West champions, Chiefs are locked in as No. 4 seed for playoffs after starting season on a roll and going through midseason doldrums. ... Chiefs won first meeting, 29-19, at Arrowhead on Oct. 30
Outlook: A lot of uncertainty in Denver. Chiefs, 19-13.

Packers (7-8) at Lions (8-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Lions (-7).
The scoop: Lions won first meeting, 30-17, at Lambeau on Nov. 6. ... Matthew Stafford of Lions has pssed for 4,000 yards (4,123) for seventh straight season. Aaron Rodgers' replacement, Brett Hundley, has seven TD passes and no INTS in last three road starts.
Outlook: Lions have some fun at expense of old rivals, 30-27.

Redskins (7-8) at Giants (2-13)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Redskins (-3).
The scoop: Former Bills scout Dave Gettleman joins the fun as new GM of Giants. ... When's last time a Giants-'Skins game was this meaningless. ... Despite team's disappointment, Washington QB Kirk Cousins (27 TDs, 10 INTs) having a strong season.
Outlook: Eli Manning says goodbye with a win? Giants, 27-24.

Dog of the day

Texans (4-11) at Colts (3-12)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Colts (-4).
The scoop: Indy tight end Jack Doyle has more receptions than Rob Gronkowski,  but Gronk has five more TDs and average per catch that is 7.1 yards better.
Outlook: Game on schedule with fewest combined wins of the two teams. Indy with home-field helps, 20-10.

Last week's results: 10-4 straight up; 5-7-2 versus spread.

Season's record: 139-80 straight up; 102-102-14 versus spread.

 

 

 

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